Marketing is Saying What You ARE and What You’re NOT

Posted Posted in Startups, Strategy

In order to be successful, it’s critical to clearly define your offering, your market and your ideal buyer. It’s also equally important to state what you’re not. What industries do you not want to do business with? What types of clients don’t align well with your company culture or products?

One of the exercises we like to take companies through is one where we look at your current customers and identify commonalities in the most successful cases. We look for industries of specialization and try to identify any intellectual property or unique industry items we possess. This helps these young start-ups to work through targeting the right kind of profitable business. Invariably someone will say, “Well we have experience in XX industry but we’d take leads in YY industry. While there’s nothing wrong with targeting more than one industry, it’s important to remain tightly focussed on businesses where you can best compete and offer significant value.

Defining What You’re Not

A mistake that a lot of start-ups make is getting into a mode where they are chasing after any business, rather than focussing on industries where they can provide the most value and have the highest likelihood of success. This is understandable. You’re trying to become profitable as quickly as possible and cash flow is critically important. But this can be quite shortsighted and counter productive.

One of the most important tasks a start-up can undertake is deciding the industries that they want to focus on. Right behind it, in terms of importance, is deciding what business you don’t want.

One of the reasons it’s important to identify what you are and what you’re not is that its very hard to compete in industries where you lack experience and insight. Not to mention areas where you lack interest and/or passion. You’re much better going after one highly profitable industry than chasing after four where you have little chance of beating the competition. So here are 4 questions to ask yourself when determining what you don’t want your company to be when it grows up:

  1. What are the industries where you don’t enjoy working?
  2. What are the attributes of a company that makes it a deal killer for you? (e.g. lack of senior level management commitment, lack of resources or personal, etc.)
  3. What industries do you tend to not be competitive or typically struggle to maintain profitability?
  4. Is an industry worth investing in to win potential business, or are you throwing darts at the wall and hoping they stick?

How do I Know if I’m Chasing Bad Business?

There are a few surefire ways to tell you’re working in the wrong industry and need to opt out of working with companies in a given industry of vertical

  • Difficulty consistently winning business – if every time you go head-to-head with a competitor in a given industry, it may be that you lack the knowledge/experience/insight to add sufficient value to be competitive.
  • Lack of profitable engagements – if you are consistently loosing money on a given vertical it may because you lack sufficient differentiation or fit for that industry.
  • No viability in an industry – You may really know the typewriter repair business well, but how viable is that business? Go after industries that are viable and will remain viable.
  • You hate doing the work – There are certain industries that you just don’t enjoy working with. It may the type of environment you have to work in, or maybe industries in the vertical just lack sophistication. If you hate doing it, DON’T DO IT! Life is to short to do work that you hate!

Do you need help identifying your ideal clients and target industries? We can help! Let’s talk!

9 Biggest Marketing Mistakes of Startups

Posted Posted in Marketing Automation, Startups

I’ve worked with hundreds of startups over the years. Some struggled, some failed and some were wildly successful. The thing the companies that struggled and failed had in common was making serious mistakes in their marketing. The one thing the wildly successful firms had in common was avoiding the worst marketing mistakes and pitfalls.

Here  is a list of the 9 biggest mistakes that startups make:

  1. Failing to Invest or Not Investing Enough – When you’re a startup cash is always an issue and keeping a tight lid on expenses can be a lifesaver when you’re just starting. But just like other areas of the business, you need to invest in marketing. Marketing, done properly, can have an outsized effect on the growth of the business.
  2. Failing to Focus on the Importance of Branding and Positioning – The beauty of marketing is there’s a lot of things you can do to promote and grow your company and many can be done without spending a fortune. But one of the areas you need to spend is in imagine and branding. Having a professional image, a clean logo and good branding standards can make you look bigger and badder than you really are. It’s almost like faking it ’til you make it.
  3. Leading with Tactics – When you’re starting out, the first thing you think you want to do is get customers and revenue in the door. You think about running individual tactics such as advertisements and social media marketing. But before you drive up a tab on executing tactics you need to make sure you’ve got a strategy and that strategy should be driven by a fully-orbed, well-thought-out and clearly articulated vision.
  4. Failing to Specialize – When I meet with new clients one of the first things I ask them is: What’s your target market and what does your “ideal client?” Successful companies can answer that in a heartbeat. Struggling companies say, “Well we’ve sold to a lot of clients in the XYZ industry and we have referenceable clients there. We also have clients in the ABC industry. But we wouldn’t turn away work from the ABC, LMNOPQ, DEF, RST industries either. You need to focus! What industry/industries do you offer the most value to? In which industries do you have a strategic advantage over other competitors?
  5. Failing to Say What You’re Not – This may surprise you, but in addition to saying who you are and what you do, it’s equally (or more) important to say who you are not and what you will not do! A company that tries to do everything for everyone when they’re first starting up will fail. Think about where the areas or industries where you don’t have as strong of a play or aren’t completive. You either need to adapt and get the skills that allow you to be successful or avoid that industry and move on.
  6. Failing to Prioritize – When you’re starting out, there are a million tasks that need to be done. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of things that need to get accomplished every day. Successful entrepreneurs know how to prioritize their time and strive to “be ruthless with time and gracious with people.” The reality is, in addition to investing money in your company’s marketing you have to invest your time as well.
  7. Failing to Delegate – When you’re starting out, everyone is busy and they have a lot to do, but you’ve got to learn to delegate. If you don’t have anyone staff with the appropriate skills to complete the tasks you want to delegate, you can use inexpensive services like Fiverr or Upwork to get tasks completed quickly without breaking the bank.
  8. Over-Investing in Agencies – Okay, you’re probably thinking, they just told me to spend and invest and now they’re telling me: “Don’t over-invest in agencies.” The reason I say this is because using a full-service marketing agency can be very expensive. While agencies have a broad set of skills that you can’t afford (in time or money) to learn, their pricing can force you to pay for things you don’t need or aren’t appropriate at your stage of development.
  9. Wanting to Automate Too Soon – Marketing automation can be incredibly powerful! You can use a marketing automation system to develop a “lead generation machine.” They can also be very expensive. The mistake that a lot of companies make is to invest in marketing automation too soon. Marketing automation works well once you’ve developed a strategy, built a website and built out a library of premium content offers. Having all of these things allow you to create workflows to trigger automated events to help nurture prospects. But investing and trying to implement a marketing automation platform system can be costly and frustrating because you’re “putting the cart before the horse.”

If you’re a startup, there are a lot challenges. There are a lot of demands on your time. By avoiding some of these common pitfalls you should be able to get more done in less time. If you’re a startup and need help, you may want to take us up on a free consultation.

Branding your acquisition

Should you Rebrand Your Acquisition?

Posted Posted in Startups, Strategy

A rose, by any other name, would still smell as sweet! What’s in a name? Do names matter? In the world of branding, a name may matter more than you think!

Are you thinking about acquiring a competitor or a company with a complementary offering to your own? One of the most difficult decisions is whether to rebrand the company and/or its products.

While there are a no hard-and-fast guidelines, there are some good rules-of-thumb that may help you think through this process

  • Changing their Name to Your Own – When should you fold the new company in under your current name or brand? In general, if your company is larger, with better name recognition, then you should change the name of your acquisition to your own. The exception being if the acquisition is a largely unrelated industry, with few over-lapping customers; in which case you may want to wait a period of time before rebrandingYou must also evaluate the degree of good will the brand has accrued in the market. A popular, well-loved brand may have more value in its name than the value of the customer base.
  • Keeping the name – If the company is larger; has great brand recognition and/or greater brand loyalty or a significant portion of the marketshare you may want to consider keeping their name or possibly combining names (you frequently see this with accounting, attorney and financial services firms.) This can be a good compromise to make newly acquired employees feel welcome and valued.
  • Creating a new name – This works well when two smaller companies merge to become a fairly significant player in a market. This is a good option when you are entering new geographic markets and one or both of the companies have a brand name with a negative connotations.
  • Other considerations – The name may be negotiated as part of the acquisition process, which settles the situation quickly. If you are financing the acquisition, your investors may have a great deal to say about the name. As they say, “Everything is negotiable.” and the name can be contested regardless of what the investor(s) want.

Names can have strong emotional meaning to consumers and employees alike, but getting a company or product name right is critical. If you’re not sure what to do about your next acquisition, let’s talk!


3 Reasons why Bad Marketing is Worse than none

3 Reasons Bad Marketing is Worse than No Marketing

Posted Posted in Marketing Automation, Startups, Strategy

Marketing done poorly is worse than no marketing at all! How do I know? Because I’ve witnessed it first-hand. Marketing done poorly can irreparably damage your brand.  There are a lot of reasons why this true, but we’ve narrowed it down to 3.

  1. Bad Marketing Sets the Wrong Expectation – If your marketing is inconsistent and unreliable, prospects will expect the same thing about your company’s products and services. For example. if you say you’ll be sending out a weekly email newsletter and you send one out and then another 6 months later, what does that say about how you keep your word?It’s incredibly important that your marketing is a consistent, planned effort that makes your company look reliable, dependable and competent. We recommend using a content map and editorial calendar that maps out your marketing plan and sets deadlines and keeps you on point.
  2. Bad Marketing can be Unrecoverable – An improper marketing strategy or bad branding can destroy your product. An example of this that you see with some degree of regularity is companies that take a product or brand to a new geographic market without knowing what your brand or product name means in their language. There are entire websites dedicated to this concept. But sometimes it can be a simple type that can ruin your brand. Once you put out your marketing piece, it belongs to the internet. Nothing will go viral faster than an embarrassing gaff or typo. Some errors are embarrassing and laughable others are fatal.
  3. Bad Marketing Wastes Time and Resources – You have a limited number of resources and a limited number of hours in the day. Time and resources wasted on bad marketing can be better spent on other activities that drive sales or improve operations. Time is the most valuable resource and once it’s gone it cannot be recovered. The opportunity cost of resources wasted on marketing that unproductive (at best) and damaging (at worst) is incredibly high because not only are resources not put to their best and highest use, but the negative effects of bad marketing can irreparably damage your brand.

So how can you know that you’re not engaging in bad marketing? It’s simple:

  • Be consistent with your marketing. Don’t allow dates to slip and introduce new marketing materials when you say you will.
  • Strive to only create marketing materials that add value for your prospects. If you can’t readily and immediately answer the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) question from your prospects’ point of view, chances are you’re missing the mark.
  • Only release marketing materials that are worthy of your brand! This can be a little tricky. Some think that everything that’s produced must be perfect and highly polished. For many businesses, a short, impactful marketing piece may be sufficient. For example, you don’t need to rent out a production facility to create a promotional video. A decent video with good content and good quality audio and clear visuals can go a long way.

If you’re worried that your marketing is getting off-track, we’d love to speak with you about it. We even offer a free, no-obligation consultation.


3 things every board should know about marketing

3 Things Every Board Needs to Know About Marketing

Posted Posted in SaaS, Startups, Strategy

When a board of directors meets to discuss the organization’s performance, too often they speak about marketing like it’s some sort of dark sorcery. They do not know how to talk about it, measure it, manage it or optimize it.

What you need to know about marketing boils down to these three things:

  1. Measure What Matters – If you are not making your revenue numbers, there’s a very good chance that your marketing isn’t getting you enough leads. Simply stated: If you don’t have enough going in the top of the sales funnel, it’s highly improbable that you’ll have enough coming of the bottom of the funnel. It’s simple math – if you close 10% of your sales leads, and 40% of your marketing qualified leads become sales qualified leads…it’s a simple equation.Make sure the metrics that you track are the metrics that matter. Revenue, total number of sales qualified leads, total number of marketing qualified leads. Tracking items such as website hits and email open rates can get you off into the tall weeds if you’re not careful.
  2. Develop and use Service Level Agreement (SLA) – Getting both sales and marketing on the same page. An SLA should set goals for the number of marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads. It should also provide a feedback mechanism so that marketing knows the relative quality of the leads they are providing and are assured that all leads are being followed up on. If you don’t know what this means, we can help!
  3. Measure the ROI – Track your leads through to the point they become revenue. Track them back to their source so that you can provide feedback on how marketing budgets are being spent. If you can’t trace revenue back to its source, you need to improve your tracking and integration between your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and your marketing automation platform.

As a member of the board of directors, your job is to provide high-level guidance on matters related to strategy and operations. Try not to get bogged down on minutia and fine points related to individual tactics. If you find yourself spending too much time managing the organization’s marketing efforts, you may need to hire a CMO.

6 Things You Should Have Before Financing

6 Things You Should Have in Place Before You Look for Financing

Posted Posted in Startups, Strategy

If you’ve ever watched the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ you know that is a scripted show that is designed to play on the emotions of anyone with an of entrepreneurial blood in their veins. The show features several investors (“The Sharks”) who listen to sales pitches from people with business startups. A lot of the folks that appear on the show trying to sell their business investors are on the show because they are eccentric and make for good TV. Many make outlandish valuations on their businesses and are countered, in some cases, with ridiculously low counters. While not entirely true-to-life, the show offers inspiration to young and aspiring entrepreneurs.

One of the things that does ring true is: If you do not know the value of your company/brand/products you’re going to lose. When you’re meeting with potential investors, you have to have your act together, and you need to be prepared. Here are 6 things you’ll want to have before you start conversing with would-be investors:

  1. A Business Plan – Not just any business  plan. A cogent, comprehensive and well thought-out business plan. One that takes into account a variety of scenarios that tell a story about what you can/will do with the money.
  2. A Marketing Plan – The marketing plan can be part of the business plan, but it should be able to stand alone as its own, as a valuable asset. The marketing plan should include branding, messaging, positioning as well as the go-to-marketing strategy. It should include a SWOT analysis for all major products or services.
  3. Legal Protections – Prior to “opening the kimono” it’s critically important to have secured any applicable patents, trademarks and copyrights. It’s incredibly important to protect your intellectual property. Without a patent your billion dollar idea may not be worth anything. You need to protect yourself from competitors, but you also need to protect yourself from unscrupulous investors who may “borrow” your idea.
  4. A Good Handle on Costs – If you’re producing a product, know your cost of goods manufactured and cost of goods sold. If you’re selling a service, make sure you know your margins and have a good handle on revenues and expenses. There is no excuse for a business owner to not know this vital management data.
  5. A Good Cashflow Model – In addition to current and historical revenue figures, investors will want to see good a good cash flow models. It’s usually a good idea to provide a best case, worst case and likely case. The best case should illustrate what you will do with an additional infusion of capital and how you will use it to drive revenues and cashflow.
  6. A Realistic Valuation – You may not want to tip your hand on what you think your company is worth, but it’s important to know, realistically, what your company is worth. The VC or Private Equity will have their own idea of what your company is worth and what they’re willing to invest. Investors will allows try to structure any deal and its terms in their favor. Knowing what your company is worth can help you readily counter any lowball or unrealistic offers.

Do you have all the pieces you need to grow your business? Are you ready to go after investment dollars? We can help! Let’s talk! 

Workplace by Facebook

Could Facebook Workplace be Right for Your Startup?

Posted Posted in Process Improvement, Startups

Facebook recently announced that they are rolling out a new platform for workplace collaboration called, unoriginally enough, Workplace by Facebook.

What’s Workplace by Facebook? 

Workplace is a collaboration space for teams and companies to collaborate internally. Providing rich functionality to facilitate collaboration and help foster corporate culture development with remote locations and virtual workers.

What are the Major functions of Workplace? 

  • Workplace offers voice and video calling
  • Video live-streaming
  • Workplace and work chat (iOS and Android)
  • Unlimited storage for files, videos and images
  • Communications between disparate companies
  • Integration to other important apps and software (in enterprise version)
  • Administrative controls for managing your community (enterprise version)
  • Monitoring tools for IT (enterprise version)
  •  APIs for custom integrations and bots (enterprise version)
  • Integrations with e-discovery and compliance providers (enterprise version)
  • Single sign-on (SSO), Active Directory support (enterprise version)
  • Integration with G Suite, Okta, Windows Azure AD and others (enterprise version)

How much does Workplace cost? 

For standard users, it’s free. For premium users who need enterprise functionality, it’s $3 per active user.

Is Workplace by Facebook Viable?

Yes, it was rolled out in beta to some very large enterprises like Cambell’s, Hootsuite, GoPro,, Volkswagen and others. It appears that most of the bugs have been worked out and it’s ready for primetime.

Is it Right for Our Company?

Well, that’s hard to say. It’s free which is very attractive for cash strapped startups. The platform has some great functionality that can save startups and small business a lot of money. The free video and audio conferencing alone can be a real game changer.

Whether it’s right for you is largely a matter of interpretation and preference. In light of recently disclosure of Facebook data being shared, some companies may not feel comfortable sharing confidential, company information on Facebook’s network. Although, it should be noted that Workplace is GDPR Compliant as well as being ISO27001, SOC2, SOC3 and EU/US Privacy Shield compliant.

Where Do I Learn More and Sign-up

You can sign up and learn more here. 




Five Things to Consider When Hiring a CMO

Five Things to Look For in a CMO

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Hiring, Startups

You’ve decided to take the plunge and hire a CMO. Whether you’re looking for a fractional CMO, or to make a full-time hire, here five things you should look for in a CMO:

  1. Experience as a CMO – CMOs have the highest turnover of any CxO position. Part of the reason for this is many in this role do not have the skills required the job. Being a CMO requires the ability to translate vision into strategy; and turn strategy into tactics; and manage the execution of the tactics to ensure optimal performance.How do you know if someone can do all of these things successfully? Look at their experience! Hav they scaled a successful, viable business in the role of CMO? The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in similar situations.
  2. Skills Working with Investors  – One of the most important facets of starting and growing a business is securing capital. Whether you’re pursuing private equity or working with a venture capital firm, it’s incredibly important to have someone who knows how to develop, present and defend a marketing plan to would-be investors. Similarly, if you’re at the point where you’re ready to go public, it’s important to have someone who has done it before. They should understand the marketing materials and PR required to maximize the unique opportunity that going public provides.
  3. Knowledge of Your Industry – Every industry is unique and each set of buyers has to be “spoken to” in their own “language.” If your perspective CMO has experience with your industry (or at the very least, experience selling to your buyers) it will make it that much easier for them to come up speed with your offerings and identify your unique value proposition and competitive advantage.It’s even more important to have a CMO with experience if you are in a heavily regulated industry. For example, if you are in the financial services industry, you’ll need to understand what is permitted and what is prohibited by the SEC and FINRA.
  4. Connections – If you bring in a CMO that has deep connections, you’ll be way ahead of the curve. A connected CMO will know who thought leaders are in your industry. This will make it easier for them to develop an influencer-based marketing strategy.They also should be deeply connected in marketing world. They should know who the best specialists and go-to people are to get the possible outcomes from your marketing effort.
  5. Cultural Fit – In order to be in the C Suite, you need to fit in and lead from the front. A CMO should be a person who understands your company’s values and fits in well with your corporate culture.
    If your company’s brand voice is a quiet, confident, expert voice, a cocky braggart probably won’t be around for long. What’s worse is they won’t be effective and could even damage your company’s brand.

Finding the right CMO for your company isn’t easy. But it’s important to have senior marketing leadership if you want to grow. We can help you find the right person for this role. Let’s talk!

10 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Startups, Strategy

Great! You’re starting a business! You’re making your idea a dream, and your dream a reality! The sad reality is the majority of new businesses fail within the first year. So how do you keep from becoming another statistic?

Having helped hundreds of start-ups I’ve noted a few commonalities in the most successful businesses. I’ve distilled it down to a short list of 10 Things:

  1. Time is not your friend – I never knew what being crunched for time was, until I started my own business! Time is something we can’t regain once we’ve lost it. The key is to maintain a sense of urgency and keep on task. There are a million distractions that can keep you from the most important priorities, that’s why you’ve got to create a plan and stick to it. Prioritize your to-do list with emphasis on mission critical items (what I like to refer to as “the big rocks”.)
  2. Get and stay organized – This goes along with the first item. Use a calendar. Block off time to do the major items on your t0-do list. Use your calendar and keep track of every appointment. You think you’ll remember them, but once you’re under a time crunch appointments can be easily forgotten. Use task lists to keep track of your priorities.
  3. Delegate – Believe it or not, even as a early start-up or solo-preneur you can still delegate your work. If you don’t have family or friends to help you, consider using a low-cost service like or to handle tasks that you aren’t equipped or have time for. Just remember, it’s critically important to accurately and thoroughly explain your requirements.
  4. Invest Where it Matters – Cash flow is always an issue when you’re starting out. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend money on things  things that matter to your long-term success. For example, hiring a virtual assistant may feel like an extravagance, but if they can help free you up to work on important items it may be worth. When deciding if an expense is worth it, consider where you’ll be with/without it. If it’s a high priority, you’ll find a way.
  5. You’re Never Really Off – The thing about owning your own business, it can provide you with flexibility to work when you want. But just know this, the work HAS to get done for you to succeed, so avoid indolence and procrastination.  When you start your own business, you’ll have to put in a lot of hours and effort until you get established. Vacations will be rare at first and you’re going to want to take your laptop and smart phone so you can keep on top of things. Don’t feel guilty about trying to keep on top of things, if you can’t relax you’ll be defeating the purpose of the vacation in the first place.
  6. Don’t Think Profitability, Think Cashflow – As the saying goes, “Cash is king!” When you’re starting out, cashflow is critical. Margins may not be what you’d like them to be in the short-term, but if cashflow is sufficient you can stay afloat.
  7. Get a Mentor – The great thing about really successful people, most want to see others succeed too. That’s one of the reasons I recommend that every entrepreneur have a mentor. Preferably someone who has done something similar to what you’re intending. Mentors are great for getting ideas, insights and motivation. Time invested learning from someone who understands how to build a successful enterprise is never wasted.
  8. Stand Out or Get Out – Build a brand worth remembering. Make sure that what you’re building is remarkable. If you’re not sure how you are different from your competition, you need to do more work on your branding, messaging and positioning. If you’re not sure how to do that, contact me. And if you’re not willing to invest the time and effort to stand out, you might as well get out now and save yourself stress.
  9. Work ON Your Business, Not Just IN Your Business – It’s very easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day responsibilities of running your business, but it’s critically important that you carve out time to think about the bigger picture. Schedule time to work in seclusion away from the business so you can focus on the big picture. Spend time thinking about the major challenges that you need to overcome in order to progress your business.
  10. “Done is Better than Perfect” – There are facets of your business that you absolutely have to get right – articles of incorporation, regulatory compliance, accounting, your brand idea. But there are a lot of tasks that you have to get done quickly. Again, time is not your friend! There are some things that you just need to get off of your to-do list, so you can focus on your big rocks. As General George S. Patton famously stated, “”A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”